May 13, 2023

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Time for Compromise on Debt Ceiling

May 13, 2023

The national debt is a major problem with consequences for every taxpayer. According to one estimate, our debt per U.S. citizen is approaching $95,000, and our national debt per household is around $240,000, adding up to a staggering $31.457 trillion debt overall. At nearly 120% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), our debt is larger than the total amount of goods and services produced in our country every year plus an additional fifth.

The national debt is so large because the federal government has a spending problem. The reckless spending of the Biden administration and the previous Congress increased the federal budget deficit for the first seven months of this fiscal year by $928 billion. That’s more than two times higher than in 2022. Biden’s budget has a 54% increase in spending compared to 2019. Meanwhile, our population has only risen 1.8%. Needless to say, this fiscal policy is unsustainable and must be addressed urgently with spending reforms.

The debt limit, otherwise known as the debt ceiling, is a law that sets the maximum amount of debt the U.S. government can accumulate. This ceiling, created by Congress in 1917 and increased many times since, has been a tool used by both parties to provide a check and balance on excessive government spending. For example, seven of the last ten debt limit increases were attached to bipartisan spending deals. Many of those deals happened when government control was divided between the parties, like when President Trump made a debt and spending deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.

Nebraska families know that you cannot keep running up your credit card debt. They also know that no one wants a default. President Joe Biden knows this very well. In October 1984, then-Senator Biden said: “I cannot agree to vote for a full increase in the debt without any assurance that steps will be taken early next year to reduce the alarming increase in the deficits and the debt.” In 2011, after Republicans took control of the House, then-Vice President Biden condemned those who had a “my way or no way” approach, saying “that’s not governing… they have to have compromise.” He personally negotiated with Sen. Mitch McConnell to increase the debt ceiling and address spending.

Sadly, President Biden has since turned his back on his own decades-long history. Instead, he’s staked out a reckless, partisan position. As our country moved closer to a debt ceiling crisis, the president was missing in action, playing chicken with our economy instead of coming to the table to compromise. Since February, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has desired a meeting to work out a deal. President Biden refused him until May 9.

When I was Governor, Nebraskans expected me to respect their tax dollars and spend every cent as effectively and efficiently as possible. As Senator, I am committed to fighting for the same from federal spending. Americans need Congress and the President to prevent a default. We must also get this administration’s runaway spending under control. House Republicans passed a bill to address both spending and default. Senate Republicans support them. After months refusing to even engage in negotiations, President Biden has finally come to the negotiating table. He must show leadership and make a deal to prevent a default and save taxpayers money. The alternative – for the United States to default on its debt for the first time in history – is unacceptable.

Along with Senator Fischer and the rest of my colleagues in the Nebraska delegation, my team and I are here to serve you. Contact my team and I anytime by phone at 202-224-4224, on my website www.ricketts.senate.gov, or via email contactricke@ricketts.senate.gov. I am honored to serve our great state and will continue to work to protect the Good Life from Washington overreach.